In the mood for war

Looks like world is gearing up for a major conflagration:

  • Israel is now striking Iranian military targets in Iraq (the first Israeli strike in Iraq since 1981).
  • China’s top official overseeing Hong Kong affairs has described the protests as a “color revolution” and apparently suggested that the PLA could be deployed.
  • India has decided to revoke the autonomous status of Muslim-majority Jammu and Kashmir, a move that Pakistan deems illegal.
  • “Turkey has threatened to re-open the floodgates of mass migration to Europe unless Turkish nationals are granted visa-free travel to the European Union.”

Better get to work on that home fallout shelter…

De-escalation

Nuclear apocalypse averted on the Indian subcontinent:

Pakistan finally handed over a recently captured Indian fighter pilot after an inordinate seven-hour delay, allowing him to walk across the Wagah border on Friday night. Prime Minister Imran Khan had announced on the floor of the National Assembly on Thursday that Wing Commander Abhinandan Varthaman would be released as a “gesture of peace.”

The release of the pilot proved to be a significant de-escalation measure, coming days after Indian Air Force (IAF) fighter jets crossed into Pakistan and bombed an alleged “terror camp” of the militant group Jaish-e-Mohammed (JeM). Pakistan retaliated with air strikes on Wednesday morning, bombing some open areas next to Indian military installations along the Line of Control (LoC) on the Indian side. Varthaman’s aircraft was scrambled from Srinagar air force base and engaged the Pakistan Air Force (PAF) jets before being shot down. The air attacks came in the wake of a terror attack that led to the death of 40 Indian policemen in Pulwama, Indian-administered Kashmir.

The outcome was definitely a happy one for the pilot:

He was captured by the Pakistani military soon after being assaulted by some local residents. “I am happy to be back to my country,” he said to Indian officials waiting anxiously before he was whisked away to board a flight to Delhi. He will have to undergo a detailed debrief, IAF officials told Asia Times.

According to Pakistani media reports, Varthaman was confused about his location before being found by the local residents. They chased him for half a kilometer, and he fired a few shots with his service pistol to dissuade them, before jumping into a pond. “He was trying to swallow some documents and drown the rest when the locals caught up with him,” eyewitnesses said. The locals had started beating him up when Pakistan Army soldiers arrived and took him away.

A free hand

Looks like India and Pakistan could be on the brink of all-out war:

Prime Minister Narendra Modi gave the Indian military a “free hand” to act regarding the time, place and how they want to move forward after Pakistan violated the Indian airspace earlier on Wednesday, according to sources. The decision was taken at a high-level security meeting with all three Service Chiefs.

With a sharp spike in tensions between India and Pakistan following an airspace violation across LoC, Modi on Wednesday met service chiefs and National Security Advisor (NSA) Ajit Doval at his residence at 7 Lok Kalyan Marg, New Delhi, to discuss the prevailing situation at the border areas in Jammu and Kashmir. The meeting came hours after Pakistan on Wednesday intruded into Indian airspace in Jammu and Kashmir’s Nowshera and Poonch sectors of Rajouri district and captured one of its pilots.

Yeah, that’s alarming.

Ruh-oh

Things are heating up between India and Pakistan:

Pakistan said it shot down two Indian aircraft from inside its airspace Wednesday and launched strikes inside Indian-controlled Kashmir, one day after India sent jets into Pakistani territory for the first time since 1971 and dropped bombs there.

The tit-for-tat aerial strikes marked the first serious military escalation between the two nuclear-armed rivals in two decades, although it did not immediately appear that either attack had caused any casualties. Both countries claim the Himalayan Kashmir region, which is divided by a militarized “Line of Control.”

Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry said its air force strikes were aimed at “non-military targets” to avoid human loss and damage, and that their sole purpose was to “demonstrate our right, will and capability for self-defense.” It said Pakistan has “no intention of escalation, but we are fully prepared to do so if forced.”

Hopefully cooler heads will prevail. It’s safe to say the world does not need a shooting war between two nuclear powers right now.

World’s tallest statue

So huge, it’s scary:

Statue of Unity India

Statue of Unity

The new Statue of Unity, twice as tall as the Statue of Liberty, is located in the middle of nowhere in the state of Gujarat, India. At 597 feet, it is the world’s tallest statue. The sculpture is of Indian independence leader Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel.

Quote from India’s prime minister:

“This statue is an answer to all those who question India’s power and might,” Modi said in his address, before heading to take part in religious rites to mark the unveiling.

And if that’s not enough, this should settle the matter:

Even as the wrangling over the Statue of Unity continues, a taller and possibly even more divisive sculpture is in the works off the coast of Mumbai. Scheduled for completion in 2021, it is of Chhatrapati Shivaji, a Hindu warrior king, revered for battling Muslim rulers.

Statue of Shivaji Mumbai

Statue of Shivaji

Once that monstrosity is topped off, I think India’s status as a global superpower will be firmly cemented.

India more populous than China?

China may have 1.29 billion people, rather than the official figure of 1.38 billion

You know your country is big when the official population figure may plausibly be off by 90 million people:

India may already have overtaken China as the world’s most populous country, according to research by an independent Chinese demographer.

Yi Fuxian, a scientist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, said Chinese officials had overestimated the number of births between 1990 and 2016 by almost 90m.

He attributed the alleged error partly to an overly optimistic fertility rate figure. China’s fertility rate was estimated at 1.6 children per woman in 2015, while Mr Yi believes it could be as low as 1.05.

If Mr Yi is correct, China’s population at the end of last year was 1.29bn, compared to the government’s official figure of 1.38bn. India’s population is officially estimated at 1.33bn.